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Electricity rates in voters’ hands

Voters in 17 municipalities and unincorporated McHenry County on Tuesday will choose whether they want their governments to shop for cheaper electricity for them.

Called “electric aggregation” or “municipal aggregation,” governments that get the go-ahead from their voters will be able to aggregate customers in the hope of finding lower electric rates.

The following is a guide to some of the questions voters may have:

Q: What does this mean?

A: Under deregulation, state law allows governments with voter approval to bundle residential and small-business customers together to bid competitively for electricity. Voters in Harvard and Fox River Grove approved aggregation in April.

Q: Which governments have aggregation on Tuesday’s ballot?

A: The referendum question will go before voters in Algonquin, Barrington Hills, Cary, Crystal Lake, Huntley, Island Lake, Johnsburg, Lake in the Hills, Lakewood, Marengo, McCullom Lake, McHenry, Prairie Grove, Ringwood, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Woodstock. The McHenry County Board has put the question on the ballot of unincorporated residents.

Q: Aren’t many of these governments planning to combine into an even bigger pool?

A: Yes. All but Barrington Hills, Crystal Lake, Prairie Grove and the incorporated portion of Wonder Lake decided to band together to form the Northern Illinois Governmental Electric Aggregation Consortium, to include the village of Genoa in DeKalb County.

Q: How will the question appear on the ballot?

A: “Shall the [county/municipality] have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program?”

Q: What happens if my fellow voters approve aggregation?

A: The governments in question will negotiate the best possible rate with energy suppliers. You will receive a letter in the mail informing you of your right to opt out and stay with your current energy provider. Every public body where voters approve aggregation will have to hold public meetings to explain the plan to residents.

Q: What happens if my fellow voters reject it?

A: Nothing. Things go on as normal and customers keep their current electrical providers.

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